Table of Contents:
The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
(by permission of the author)
George Q. Cannon on his own initiative selected a committee comprising himself, Hyrum B. Clawson, Franklin S. Richards, John T. Caine and James Jack to get a statement or Manifesto that would meet the objections urged by the brethren above named. They met from time to time to discuss the situation. From the White home, where President Taylor and companions stopped, after leaving the Carlisle home, they came out to father's. George Q. Cannon would go and consult with the brethren of the committee, I taking him back and forth each day.
Joseph Musser reports the following additional information:
Cannon Committee Not Substantiated
A careful examination of the daily journals and correspondence of the members of George Q. Cannon's alleged committee reveals neither such meetings nor the existence of such a committee. President Cannon's journals make no mention of his organizing and/or meeting with such a committee.2 Neither does President Taylor's daily journal3 for that period mention the alleged committee.4 Woolley's 1922 statement implies that a manifesto was already in existence in June of 1886, which the purported committee tried all summer to get President Taylor to sign. This is in conflict with the 1929 account, which states that the manifesto prepared by the committee mentioned was not presented to John Taylor until September 26th 1886.
A question arises concerning the necessity for a committee like the one George Q. Cannon is alleged to have organized. Would it take five legally trained men three months of "incessant" labor to produce a manifesto "similar" to the one Wilford Woodruff later issued? President Woodruff, legally untrained and grammatically unsure, wrote the Manifesto of 1890 in only a short time "under the spirit of inspiration."
When Pres. Woodruff prepared his manifesto it was without aid or suggestions of his counselors. He took a clerk and went to a room alone where under the spirit of inspiration he dictated the declaration he desired to make, and there was only one slight change made therein when it was read to Counselors Cannon and Smith.5
As a delegate to Congress and as a man of great legal ability, President Cannon was certainly capable of writing such a document himself. As President Taylor's counselor, nephew, and confidant, he could certainly present the views of the complaining Saints without the aid of such a committee. He could have confided with President Taylor at will during their close association.
Sources for a Manifesto
Although there is no authentic account of President Cannon urging the issuance of a manifesto, there is ample evidence to show there were some outside the Church who did urge such issuance, and ample evidence that President Cannon was opposed to it. L. John Nuttall, personal secretary to both President Taylor and President Woodruff, reported the following in his own journal on December 19, 1888:
The Miller document referred to was presented to President Taylor and President Cannon during the time period covered by the Woolley story. It may be that the document was discussed while the brethren were at the home of John W. Woolley, and that Lorin Woolley later picked up the story and improvised upon it to his own ends. Fundamentalists have never identified the manifesto that President Cannon is alleged to have drawn up, and no such document has yet been found in the Church archives.
Cannon Committee Meetings
Let us now review those specifically mentioned by Woolley as comprising the Cannon Committee.
Hyrum B. Clawson was a prominent bishop in the Church in the 1880s, and he presided over the Salt Lake Twelfth Ward. During the summer of 1886, he was in Prescott, Arizona, on legal business. He kept no journal that is extant, but during this period he wrote several letters from Arizona to James Jack, the financial clerk of the Church, which are on file in the Church Historical Department. He, there fore, could not have been meeting with President Cannon's alleged committee during the summer of 1886.
Franklin S. Richards was the legal counsel for the Church during this stormy period of Church history. He was laboring "incessantly" in the courts to defend the Saints in connection with unlawful cohabitation cases: polygamists were being arraigned almost daily during the summer of 1886.7 An examination of his correspondence with the First Presidency indicates his arduous labors and strong convictions. It is unlikely in view of his labors and his stated convictions that he would try to influence President Taylor to concede plural marriage. Neither does his correspondence contain any material that would suggest his involvement with a committee like the one alleged by Woolley.8
John T. Caine was Utah's delegate to Congress in the 1880s. He was in Washington, D. C., during June, July, and August of 1886, so he could not have been meeting with the alleged committee. Congress adjourned on August 5, 1886; Caine arrived in Salt Lake City on August 29, and he reported his arrival to President Taylor in a letter dated September 1, 1886.9 He also sent a letter to President Taylor dated September 18 asking for a personal interview, but it was actually President Cannon who met with him. A letter from John Taylor to James Jack dated September 20, 1886, reveals an interview between James Jack, George Q. Cannon, and Caine: "Will you please arrange for Hon. J. T. Caine and yourself to meet at 9 o'clock tuesday evening at the place where you and he, on different occasions, have met?"10
Samuel Bateman recorded in his journal the consummation of this meeting: "Bro. G. Q. Cannon went with me. Went to Frank Armstrong's. Met Abram Cannon, James Jack, and John T. Caine."11
This reference is the only mention of Caine in extant journals prior to September 26.
James Jack was the financial clerk of the Church and also served as territorial treasurer, so it is easy to understand why Lorin Woolley would include him on the purported committee. However, his loyalty to President Taylor and to the cause was unquestioned. On July 3, 1886, he wrote to L. John Nuttall concerning federal attempts to quash plural marriage: "One thing. .. . We do not propose they shall bury us until we are dead."12
An examination of his letterbook for 1886 reveals no communication with any member of the alleged committee or with President Taylor on any matter that would suggest his participation on such a committee.
Samuel Bateman was a guard and driver of President John Taylor's party while President Taylor was on the "underground" during the summer of 1886. Bateman's journal says nothing about Lorin Woolley taking George Q. Cannon back and forth to such purported meetings. Neither does George Q. Cannon's journal make any mention of his being either chauffeured or guarded by Lorin Woolley during the entire summer of 1886. President Taylor's daily journal, likewise, makes no reference to Woolley as either a guard or driver. This aspect of Lorin Woolley's story is thus not confirmed by contemporary records.
Let us review the Fundamentalist version of President Taylor's itinerary while on the "underground" and compare it with the actual record:
While the brethren were at the Carlisle residence (in Murray) in May or June of 1886, letters began to come to President John Taylor.13
John Taylor and company, including Geo. Q. Can non, clerk L. John Nuttall and others, stopped at the residence of Wm. H. Hill in Mill Creek for about three weeks, going there from the residence of Bro. White or Carlisle, and before he went to Centerville, John W. Woolleys house.14
From the White home, where President Taylor and companions stopped, after leaving the Carlisle home, they came out to father's. George Q. Cannon would go and consult with the brethren of the committee, I taking him back and forth each day.15
This suggests that President Taylor and party stayed at the Hill home until June or July of 1886, after which time they moved to the William White home. Their stay at the White home would have lasted from June or July to sometime in August or September of 1886, when the party supposedly proceeded to the John Woolley home during the latter part of September.
The itinerary of President John Taylor and party while on the "underground" is preserved in President Taylor's Letter File in the Church Historical Department. It presents quite a different picture from the one claimed by Woolley as cited above. The brethren were not staying "at the Carlisle residence in May or June of 1886;" instead, the record shows that President Taylor and party stayed at the home of William White and sons in the Salt Lake Sixteenth Ward from March 16 to June 10, 1886. There was no stopover at William H. Hill's residence in Mill Creek as Musser contends. The record shows that President Taylor's party moved from the White home on June 10, 1886, to the Alfred Solomon residence in the Salt Lake City Nineteenth Ward.
Musser claims that the party went directly from the White home to the John Woolley farm in Centerville, but the actual itinerary indicates otherwise. On June 30, 1886, President Taylor's party moved from the Solomon residence to the home of Henry Day in Draper. They then made nine additional stops before arriving at the John Woolley farm on September 14, 1886.
Once again we find Fundamentalist claims strikingly at variance with contemporary records. The credibility of Lorin Woolley's recollections is thus rendered questionable when compared with the actual record during the period concerned.
1. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 4.
2. From the nature of President Cannon's journal entries there is every reason to believe that he would have recorded such important information had it occurred, because he recorded in his journal such confidential material as proceedings of the secret "Council of Fifty" that was revived during the 1880s.
3. President Taylor's Office Journal refers to the official office journal of President John Taylor's daily activities as recorded by his personal secretary, L. John Nuttall. The journal--along with those denoting activities of other Church presidents--is kept in the First Presidency vault at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
4. Information of such a committee would not be purposefully withheld from daily journals, since this is not the sort of thing one would worry about falling into enemy hands. In fact, such a discovery may have tended to ease the situation.
5. Journal of Abraham H. Cannon, vol. 13, September 30, 1890, Church Archives, Salt Lake City. In the journal this statement is attributed to Franklin D. Richards, who is reported to have said it when the Woodruff Manifesto was discussed by the Quorum of the Twelve in council.
6. Journal of L. John Nuttall, December 19, 1888.
7. See The Historical Record for 1886.
8. See Franklin S. Richards Correspondence File, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City.
9. John T. Caine Letter File, September 1, 1886.
10. President John Taylor Letter File, September 18, 1886, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
11. Diary of Samuel Bateman, 1886-1909, September 22, 1886, Brigham Young University Library Special Collections, Provo, Utah.
12. James Jack Letter File, July 3, 1886, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
13. 1886 Revelation: A Revelation of the Lord to John Taylor (hereafter called 1886 Revelation), p. 5.
14. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 24.
15. 1886 Revelation, p. 5.